WeTRADE: LGBT Business Summit in Colombia

| By Michael Castellano

Growing in a Diverse Market

Last week, the Colombian LGBT Chamber of Commerce (CCLGBTco) held the inaugural annual conference, cleverly titled “WE TRADE.” From November 5th through 7th, businesses owners convened in the capital city of Bogotá to participate in a series of signature conferences, workshops, forums, and networking sessions focused on economic growth, business development, and the LGBT market in Colombia. Held at the JW Marriott Bogotá, this sold-out event at the was not only the first major conference for CCLGBTco, the NGLCC’s official national affiliate chamber in Colombia, but also the very first business summit for the LGBT business community in Colombia. 
 
Felipe Cárdenas, CEO of CCLGBTco, and his husband Andrés Vásquez, Vice-President of CCLGBTco, as well as the CCLGBTco board of directors and staff, led Colombian constituents through three days of expert programming under the mantra “Creciendo en un mercado diverso,” or “Growing in a diverse market.” WE TRADE 2014 was made possible through support from the NGLCC and funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as other corporate partners through a strategic public-private partnership. 
 
United States Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker opened the event on Wednesday morning with remarks reinforcing the United States’ commitment to diversity and LGBT rights around the world. In his speech, Ambassador Whitaker stated, “We have a responsibility to keep in mind the diversity of everyone.” In addition to representation from the US government, officials from the Swedish Embassy and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) also spoke during the event.
 
From the corporate side, individuals from IBM, Terpel, Accenture, Oasis Hotels, Acciones de la Frontera, and Delta Airlines, among others, addressed the audience and shared their corporate policies on LGBT inclusion and supplier diversity. The conference also included a marketplace expo, which gave approximately 25 other small businesses and chamber members the chance to showcase their products and services in an excellent display of entrepreneurship and innovation.
 
For CCLGBTco members, WE TRADE 2014 marked the launch of the chamber’s #FriendlyBiz, the new certification program for Gay Friendly business in Colombia. The NGLCC also extended international LGBT supplier registration to Colombian businesses for the first time at the conference and recognized those newly registered businesses with certificates.
 
WE TRADE 2014 culminated on Friday with meetings and programming off-site at the Congress of the Republic building. In a historic moment for the LGBT community and for Colombia, CCLGBTco members listened to remarks from international leaders in the national Congress building. Finally, openly gay congresswoman and activist Angélica Lozano Correa delivered very candid concluding remarks addressing the political struggle for LGBT rights, her mission to promote diversity in Colombia, and the need to work together as a community.
 
Colombia is the world’s 4th fastest growing economy, and with a population of approximately 48 million and a stable middle class of over 25 million, the South American country has the ability to sustain a growing economy for years to come. Bogotá consistently ranks as one of the best business environments in Latin America according to the World Bank, and with the success last week from the NGLCC’s affiliate chamber, CCLGBTco, Colombia is sure to become a critical location for business opportunities for international trade.